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Observation in Science

30 septembrie 2011 00:35

I'm not smart. I try to observe. Millions saw the apple fall but Newton was the one who asked why. Bernard Mannes Baruch (1870 - 1965) U.S. financier, statesman, and philanthropist. The New York Post

What is science ?
Science, systematic study of anything that can be examined, tested, and verified. The word science is derived from the Latin word scire, meaning to know. From its early beginnings, science has developed into one of the greatest and most influential fields of human endeavor. Today different branches of science investigate almost everything that can be observed or detected, and science as a whole shapes the way we understand the universe, our planet, ourselves, and other living things. Science develops through objective analysis, instead of through personal belief. Knowledge gained in science accumulates as time goes by, building on work performed earlier. Some of this knowledgesuch as our understanding of numbersstretches back to the time of ancient civilizations, when scientific thought first began. Other scientific knowledgesuch as our understanding of genes that cause cancer or of quarks (the smallest known building block of matter)dates back less than 50 years. However, in all fields of science, old or new, researchers use the same systematic approach, known as the scientific method, to add to what is known.

During scientific investigations, scientists put together and compare new discoveries and existing knowledge. In most cases, new discoveries extend what is currently accepted, providing further evidence that existing ideas are correct. For example, in 1676 the English physicist Robert Hooke observed that elastic objects, such as metal springs, stretch in proportion to the force that acts on them. Despite all the advances that have been made in physics since 1676, this simple law still holds true.

Scientists utilize existing knowledge in new scientific investigations to predict how things will behave. For example, a scientist who knows the exact dimensions of a lens can predict how the lens will focus a beam of light. In the same way, by knowing the exact makeup and properties of two chemicals, a researcher can predict what will happen when they combine. Sometimes scientific predictions go much further by describing objects or events that are not yet known. An outstanding instance occurred in 1869, when the Russian chemist Dmitry Mendeleyev drew up a periodic table of the elements arranged to illustrate patterns of recurring chemical and physical properties. Mendeleyev used this table to predict the existence and describe the properties of several elements unknown in his day, and when the elements were discovered several years later, his predictions proved to be correct. In science, important advances can also be made when current ideas are shown to be wrong. A classic case of this occurred early in the 20th century, when the German geologist Alfred Wegener suggested that the continents were at one time connected, a theory known as continental drift. At the time, most geologists discounted Wegener's ideas, because the Earth's crust seemed to be fixed. But following the discovery of plate tectonics in the 1960s, in which scientists found that the Earths crust is actually made of moving plates, continental drift became an important part of geology. Through advances like these, scientific knowledge is constantly added to and refined. As a result, science gives us an ever more detailed insight into the way the world around us works.

Hookes Microscope English scientist Robert Hooke built this microscope in the 17th century and used it to conduct pioneering research. He discovered the cell structure of plants by observing a thin slice of cork under his microscope.

How scientist work ?

Scientific research can be divided into basic science, also known as pure science, and applied science. In basic science, scientists w orking primarily at academic institutions pursue research simply to satisfy the thirst for know ledge. In applied science, scientists at industrial corporations conduct research to achieve some kind of practical or profitable gain.

In practice, the division between basic and applied science is not always clear-cut. This is because discoveries that initially seem to have no practical use often develop one as time goes by. For example, superconductivity, the ability to conduct electricity w ith no resistance, was little more than a laboratory curiosity when Dutch physicist Heike Kamerlingh Onnes discovered it in 1911. To day superconducting electromagnets are used in an ever-increasing number of important applications, from diagnostic medical equipment to powerful particle accelerators. Scientists study the origin of the solar system by analyzing meteorites and collecting data from satellites and space probes. They search for the secrets of life processes by observing the activity of individual molecules in living cells. They observe the patterns of human relationships in the customs of aboriginal tribes. In each of these varied investigations the questions asked and the means employed to find answers are different. All the inquiries, however, share a common approach to problem solving known as the scientific method. Scientists may work alone or they may collaborate with other scientists. In all cases, a scientists work must measure up to the standards of the scientific community. Scientists submit their findings to science forums, such as science journals and conferences, in order to subject the findings to the scrutiny of their peers.

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Scientific Method
Whatever the aim of their work, scientists use the same underlying steps to organize their research: (1) they make detailed observations about objects or processes, either as they occur in nature or as they take place during experiments; (2) they collect and analyze the information observed; and (3) they formulate a hypothesis that explains the behavior of the phenomena observed.

Observation and Experimentation

A scientist begins an investigation by observing an object or an activity. Observation typically involves one or more of the human senseshearing, sight, smell, taste, and touch. Scientists typically use tools to aid in their observations. For example, a microscope helps view objects too small to be seen with the unaided human eye, while a telescope views objects too far away to be seen by the unaided eye.
Laboratory Research Students in postgraduate courses of study conduct advanced research in professional or academic fields. These graduate students in a university laboratory record data from an oscilloscope. Jeff Greenberg/Photo Researchers, Inc.

Scientists typically apply their observation skills to an experiment. An experiment is any kind of trial that enables scientists to control and change at will the conditions under which events occur. It can be something extremely simple, such as heating a s olid to see when it melts, or something highly complex, such as bouncing a radio signal off the surface of a distant planet. Scientists typically repeat experiments, sometimes many times, in order to be sure that the results were not affected by unforeseen factors.

Most experiments involve real objects in the physical world, such as electric circuits, chemical compounds, or living organis ms. However, with the rapid progress in electronics, computer simulations can now carry out some experiments instead. If they are carefully constructed, these simulations or models can accurately predict how real objects will behave. One advantage of a simulation is that it allows experiments to be conducted without any risks. Another is that it can alter the apparent passage of time, speeding up or slowing down natural processes. This enables scientists to investigate things that happen very gradually, such as evolution in simple organisms, or ones that happen almost instantaneously, such as collisions or explosions.

Data Collection and Analysis

During an experiment, scientists typically make measurements and collect results as they w ork. This information, know n as data, can take many forms. Data may be a set of numbers, such as daily measurements of the temperature in a particular location or a description of side effects in an animal that has been given an experimental drug. Scientists typically use computers to arrange data in w ays that make the information easier to understand and analyze. Data may be arranged into a diagram such as a graph that shows how one quantity (body temperature, for instance) varies in relation to another quantity (days since starting a drug treatment). A scientist flying in a helicopter may collect information about the location of a migrating herd of elephants in Africa during different seasons of a year. The data collected may be in the form of geographic coordinates that can be plotted on a map to provide the position of the elephant herd at any given time during a year.

Scientists use mathematics to analyze the data and help them interpret their results. The types of mathematics used include statistics, which is the analysis of numerical data, and probability, which calculates the likelihood that any particular event will occur.
Animal Experimentation A researcher tests the effects of marijuana on a rhesus monkeys eye. Supporters of animal rights regard most animal experimentation as unethical. Many scientists defend animal studies as necessary for advancing understanding of human diseases and improving the quality of human life. Hank Morgan/Science Source/Photo Researchers, Inc.

Formulating a Hypothesis
Once an experiment has been carried out and data collected and analyzed, scientists look for whatever
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Induction, in logic, process of drawing a conclusion about an

Once an experiment has been carried out and data collected and analyzed, scientists look for whatever pattern their results produce and try to formulate a hypothesis that explains all the facts observed in an experiment. In developing a hypothesis, scientists employ methods of induction to generalize from the experiments results to predict future outcomes, and deduction to infer new facts from experimental results. Formulating a hypothesis may be difficult for scientists because there may not be enough information provided by a single experiment, or the experiments conclusion may not fit old theories. Sometimes scientists do not have any prior idea of a hypothesis before they start their investigations, but often scientists start out with a working hypothesis that will be proved or disproved by the results of the experiment. Scientific hypotheses can be useful, just as hunches and intuition can be useful in everyday life. But they can also be problematic because they tempt scientists, either deliberately or unconsciously, to favor data that support their ideas. Scientists generally take great care to avoid bias, but it remains an ever-present threat. Throughout the history of science, numerous researchers have fallen into this trap, either in the hope of self-advancement or because they firmly believe their ideas to be true. If a hypothesis is borne out by repeated experiments, it becomes a theoryan explanation that seems to consistently fit with the facts. The ability to predict new facts or events is a key test of a scientific theory. In the 17th century German astronomer Johannes Kepler proposed three theories concerning the motions of planets. Keplers theories of planetary orbits were confirmed when they were used to predict the future paths of the planets. On the other hand, when theories fail to provide suitable predictions, these failures may suggest new experiments and new explanations that may lead to new discoveries. For instance, in 1928 British microbiologist Frederick Griffith discovered that the genes of dead virulent bacteria could transform harmless bacteria into virulent ones. The prevailing theory at the time was that genes were made of proteins. But studies performed by Canadian-born American bacteriologist Oswald Avery and colleagues in the 1930s repeatedly showed that the transforming gene was active even in bacteria from which protein was removed. The failure to prove that genes were composed of proteins spurred Avery to construct different experiments and by 1944 Avery and his colleagues had found that genes were composed of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), not proteins.

Induction, in logic, process of drawing a conclusion about an object or event that has yet to be observed or occur, on the basis of previous observations of similar objects or events. For example, after observing year after year that a certain kind of weed invades our yard in autumn, we may conclude that next autumn our yard will again be invaded by the weed.

Deduction, in logic, a process of reasoning in which reasons are given in support of a claim. The reasons, or justifications, are called the premises of the claim, and the claim they purport to justify is called the conclusion. In a correct, or valid, deduction the premises support the conclusion in such a way that it would be impossible for the premises to be true and for the conclusion to be false. In this, deduction differs sharply from induction, a process of drawing a conclusion in which the truth of the premises does not guarantee the truth of the conclusion.

"Nature uses as little as possible of anything." Johannes Kepler (1571 - 1630) German astronomer. Harmonice mundi

Oswald Avery

Science is the search for truth. Its tools are rationality, objectivity, experimentation, and the free exchange of reliable information. But what happens when a scientist reports unreliable or fraudulent information? How common is fraud in science? Can science distinguish the fraudulent from the genuine? What steps are scientists taking to police themselves? Science journalist Christopher King reports on these questions and other controversies surrounding fraud in science.

Fraud in Science
By Christopher King Oswald Avery in 1937

It was supposed to be the greatest archaeological discovery in history. Approximately 90 years ago, an amateur geologist uncovered fragments of skull and jaw bones in a gravel pit on Piltdown Common in Sussex, England. At a scientific meeting in 1912, the assembled pieces, thought to be nearly a million years old, were presented to the world: 'Piltdown Man,' a humanlike skull with a large, apelike jaw. Here was proof of the prehistoric 'missing link,' the crucial step on the evolutionary progression from primitive apes to modern humans. And, best of all, he was British! Despite the excitement, however, many scientists doubted the authenticity of the skull. Their suspicions were finally justified in the 1950s, when modern chemical analysis showed that the bones were actually from two different sources: The jaw belonged to an orangutan and the skull to a humanneither of them much more than 600 years old. Some modern trickster, after carefully filing down the fragments and staining them to make them appear ancient, had planted them in the gravel pit to be 'discovered.' In the decades since the Piltdown scandal, historians have debated whether any of the scientists involved were simply tricked or if they actually took part in the forgery. But the perpetrator of the hoax has never been indisputably identified. Piltdown Man may have lost his place in the annals of paleoanthropology, but he lives on as perhaps the most notorious example of scientific fraud in history. Unfortunately, this was the not the first instance of scientific misconduct ever recordedand certainly not the last. Microsoft Encarta 2009. 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. According to a traditional view that goes back at least as far as the time of the Italian scientist Galileo Galilei some 500 years ago, the process of science is governed by rationality, logic, and truth. The scientist carefully and objectively observes, collects, and classifies information, then formulates a hypothesis in order to explain the data and to predict what might happen under various conditions. The scientist also performs experiments to test the hypothesis. Depending on the outcome, the hypothesis may be expanded, revised, or completely rejected. If the hypothesis proves sturdy enough to withstand a series of experiments, a scientist might develop a broader set of explanations and predictions known as a theory. In turn, even theories are subject to modification or replacement as new knowledge accumulates. Died Citizenship Nationality

October 21, 1877 Halifax, Nova Scotia

February 2, 1955 Nashville, Tennessee American Canada

Institutions Known for

molecular biology
Rockefeller UniversityHospital DNA transmits heredity

Pa s ted from <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oswald_Avery>

The mountains too, at a distance, appear airy masses and smooth, but seen near at hand they are rough.

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The mountains too, at a distance, appear airy masses and smooth, but seen near at hand they are rough. Diogenes (412? BC - 323 BC) Greek philosopher, 4th century BC.

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